Saturday, December 6, 2008

Weekend News From All Over

Lego-Style Islamic Terrorist Figurine Sparks Outrage

A Lego-style Islamic terrorist figurine has sparked outrage among Muslims and others.

The controversial toy mini-figure, made by American Will Chapman as part of his BrickArms line, is a masked militant with an assault rifle, grenade launcher and belt of explosives. The character is called "Bandit - Mr. White" and sells for $14.

Shocked by the plaything, British Muslim organization the Ramadhan Foundation has branded the figurine "absolutely disgusting." Chief executive Mohammed Shafiq said the toy is "glorifying terrorism."

"I don't think there's any difference between someone that shouts hatred through a megaphone and someone that creates a doll that glorifies terrorists," he said. "As a parent myself, I'm going to teach my children respect for the law and respect for each and every community.

"These are the lessons parents should be giving to their children -- not lessons about weapons and violence."

Father-of-three Chapman, whose company is based outside of Seattle, boasts on his Web site that his 9-year-old son gave him the idea for the toy line, which includes 31 different Lego-style weapons and 10 miniature militant figurines. Other fighters in the line include World War II troops, U.S. marines and a Nazi SS officer.

Man Fights Knife-Wielding Neighbor With Candy Cane

A man using a candy cane lawn ornament fended off a knife-wielding neighbor who had been attacking holiday guests at a Sacramento home. Police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said the man used the 2-foot-tall plastic ornament to subdue the attacker until officers arrived.

He said the 49-year-old suspect became intoxicated, went over to a neighbor's home on Thanksgiving and began waving a kitchen knife at people gathered on the lawn. He cut several peoples' clothing before one of them decided to fight back.

Police said the man with the knife was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. The guest who took up the candy cane was not arrested because police determined he acted in self-defense.

Cops: Man Assaulted Girlfriend With Cheeseburger

A Florida man is facing a domestic violence charge after authorities say he assaulted his girlfriend with a cheeseburger. An Indian River County Sheriff's Office arrest report says 22-year-old Vincent Gonzalez of Vero Beach and his girlfriend got into an argument as they sat in a car in front of their home.

Gonzalez wouldn't let her get out of the vehicle, so the woman threw his drink out of the car, according to the report. In response, Gonzalez allegedly grabbed her arm and smashed the cheeseburger into her face.

The pair emerged from the car, and authorities say Gonzalez again took the McDonald's sandwich and pushed it against his girlfriend's face. Gonzalez was released on $1,000 bond Wednesday.

Salvation Army Leader to Lose Job Over Marriage

The leader of a Wisconsin Salvation Army will lose his job if he goes ahead with plans to marry outside the organization. Capt. Johnny Harsh of Oshkosh is engaged to a woman who's not affiliated with the Salvation Army. They're planning to marry in June.

Harsh says he's well aware of the agency's rule that says an officer may only marry another officer of the organization. But he doesn't think it's fair. Salvation Army Advisory Board member Helen Lord Burr says the agency's rules are the same all over the world. Harsh became engaged after losing his wife, Capt. Yalanda Harsh, to complications of a heart attack last June.

Husband and Wife Stole Guns, Jewelry From 60 Homes

A husband-and-wife team of burglars broke into about 60 homes around rural eastern Missouri, stealing guns, jewelry and other valuables and selling them to a jewelry store owner who then sold the stolen goods over the Internet, authorities said Thursday.

All three - Kibb Patrick Howard, 27, Carla Kay Howard, 26, and Michael Carl Sifrit, 42, face multiple state charges, and authorities are seeking federal indictments, Lincoln County Lt. Andy Binder said at a news conference. All three are jailed in Warren County, where the first set of charges were filed.

Police said they found about 100 stolen weapons and other stolen property at Sifrit's home in Fenton. Three guns and stolen jewelry allegedly were found at his S&S Jewelers in Warrenton, which police described as a front for the illegal sale of stolen guns and other stolen property.

Lincoln County detective Shannon Bowen said investigators were looking into reports that Sifrit sold some of the items on eBay. At the news conference, about four dozen confiscated rifles and shotguns were laid out on tables, along with bows and arrows, power tools, big-screen TVs, knives, VCRs, even an electric guitar.

"It was through good old-fashioned police work that we were able to locate these suspects," Binder said.

The Howards broke into homes in five counties -- Lincoln, Warren, Audrain, Montgomery and Pike, authorities said. All of the burglaries happened in the daylight over the past 45 days. The investigation began when witnesses started reporting seeing a man and a woman in a maroon Jeep Cherokee in the areas of the burglaries. Witnesses also reported seeing a tattoo on the woman's neck.

Binder said Carla Howard would knock on the front door. If someone was home, she'd make up a reason for being there, sometimes saying she was there to "pick up the puppies." If the home was unoccupied, Binder said, Kibb Howard would break in and take items like guns, jewelry and televisions.

Binder said the Howards have a residence in Laddonia but were found at a friend's home in Truesdale, where they were arrested on Tuesday. He said both confessed to the crimes to get money to feed their addiction to heroin. They allegedly told police they stole about 150 weapons.

Binder said Sifrit bought the goods knowing they were stolen. His home and jewelry store were raided on Wednesday. Authorities believe Sifrit has received and sold as many as 500 firearms and tens of thousands of dollars worth of stolen jewelry. Other suspects also may have sold stolen property to Sifrit, authorities said. The investigation continues.

Proposed Fee on Smelly Cows, Hogs Angers Farmers

For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.

Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which is one of several put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases emitted by belching and flatulence amounts to air pollution.

"This is one of the most ridiculous things the federal government has tried to do," said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, an outspoken opponent of the proposal.

It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and "all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them."

Sparks said Wednesday he's worried the fee could be extended to chickens and other farm animals and cause more meat to be imported.

"We'll let other countries put food on our tables like they are putting gas in our cars. Other countries don't have the health standards we have," Sparks said.

EPA spokesman Nick Butterfield said the fee was proposed for farms with livestock operations that emit more than 100 tons of carbon emissions in a year and fall under federal Clean Air Act provisions. Butterfield said the EPA has not taken a position on any of the proposals. But farmers from across the country have expressed outrage over the idea, both on Internet sites and in opinions sent to EPA during a public comment period that ended last week.

"It's something that really has a very big potential adverse impact for the livestock industry," said Rick Krause, the senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The fee would cover the cost of a permit for the livestock operations. While farmers say it would drive them out of business, an organization supporting the proposal hopes it forces the farms and ranches to switch to healthier crops.

"It makes perfect sense if you are looking for ways to cut down on meat consumption and recoup environmental losses," said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman in Washington for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"We certainly support making factory farms pay their fair share," he said.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Haleyville in northwest Alabama, said he has spoken with EPA officials and doesn't believe the cow tax is a serious proposal that will ever be adopted by the agency.

"Who comes up with this kind of stuff?" said Perry Mobley, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's beef division. "It seems there is an ulterior motive, to destroy livestock farms. This would certainly put them out of business."

Butterfield said the EPA is reviewing the public comments and didn't have a timetable for the next steps. No word yet on if the EPA will take up the matter regarding stinky people.

Red Russian Combat Stars to Go Red, White and Blue

After more than 90 years, the Russian stars will no longer be all red. They'll be red, white and blue. The Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament voted 389-2 Friday to replace Soviet-era red stars on military aircraft with ones bearing the three colors of the Russian national flag. The five-pointed red stars have adorned the planes since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

The State Duma made the move even though the red star was officially restored as a military symbol and brought back to the military's parade banners in 2002. The stars had remained on the planes all along, however.

But not all things Soviet have been abandoned. During Vladimir Putin's presidency, Russia also restored the old Soviet national anthem - albeit with new lyrics.

Woman Sues Sports Bar After Getting Stuck in Toilet

A woman is suing a Pennsylvania sports bar and restaurant, saying she got stuck inside a toilet bowl for 20 minutes after the seat broke. Kathleen Hewko of Delran Township, N.J., says she was in the bathroom at Starters Pub near Allentown when the handicapped toilet seat she was sitting on cracked and dumped her into the bowl.

Hewko says in her lawsuit filed in federal court in November that she had hip surgery prior to the Nov. 19, 2006, incident and was re-injured when the seat broke. The lawsuit names Starters and Kohler Co., the company that made the toilet seat.

Representatives from both companies were indisposed.

Cops Chase Loose Pigs After Minnesota Highway Crash

Officers are chasing loose pigs that escaped from an overturned semi on an Interstate 94 ramp in Maple Grove. The crash happened after 3 a.m. Thursday. The truck was carrying about 100 hogs, and about 10 were loose. Police and state troopers are trying to corral the pigs and keep them off the freeway.

The right lane of eastbound I-94 is closed in the area and traffic is slow in the left lane. The State Patrol says the semi driver suffered minor injuries.

Mom to Sue High School for Strip Searching Son

The mother of a 15-year-old student at an alternative high school in Connecticut says she's suing because her son was strip searched. Heidi Burwell, the mother of a Pine Academy student, says her son was allegedly forced to remove his clothing after being accused of stealing money from a teacher this week.

The mother's lawyer says the teenager did not steal the money. Attorney Robert Berke says the school's principal ordered a strip search that was conducted in a restroom by two male teachers. The missing money was not found.

Ansonia police are investigating the incident. Superintendent of Schools Carol Merlone said the allegation also is being investigated by district officials. The school principal and the two male teachers did not return messages.


WSB, KNBR, WGST, Associated Press, Washington Post

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